Monday, 28 October 2013

Public Health: Lunch in 2063

‘Left unchecked, climate change aligned with population explosion and low agricultural yields will drastically increase global poverty and hunger over the next two decades’, warns the international aid organization Oxfam in a report released in May 2011.

Ryan Cheti and Shay Ola, founders of the Rebel Dining Society, have come up with a way in which we in the UK can help the global food crisis by consuming our protein from a more sustainable source than livestock. Their culinary inspiration centres on us obtaining our daily protein requirements from the humble insect; a concept which appears to be rather remarkable in the UK but is in fact already adopted by 80 % of the world’s population.

I attended a Sunday dinner that Cheti and Ola believe (or at least hope) will become customary in the future. The menu consisted of four dim sums filled with:

1.       Mealworms with forbidden rice and oyster mushrooms
2.       Locusts with shiro simeji and lotus root
3.       Mealworm with water chestnut and shitake mushroom
4.       Locusts with taro root and hon shimeji

Having turned up expecting a tasty leg of lamb for my supper, I was a bit dismayed to find out that I would in fact be eating insects and tried to scoff as many of the courses as possible before finding out the finer details of the menu. Up until the point where the menu was revealed though, I thought that the dim sums were incredibly tasty and was thankful that they did not resemble any insects in the slightest (the key I believe to eating unconventional food).

This ‘gourmet’ dining experience was designed to promote sustainability in our ever expanding world. However I believe that insect protein could also play a role when looking after our health. Currently adults in the UK obtain most of their protein from meat (British Nutrition Foundation), but this source can be high in saturated fat leading to raised cholesterol levels and subsequent health issues. 
Insects offer a concentrated source of protein, with lower saturated fat levels than the traditional meats. Not only do some insects contain over 60 % protein, but for those of us requiring a quick refuel, chomping away on the African termite can deliver a whopping 761 calories per 100g as well (maybe not so appealing to some).

Insects are not only a high energy and protein source. The call for free vitamins on the NHS by Prof Dame Sally Davies last week has been received with some controversy as surely an encouragement to increase kids intake of fruit and vegetables would be better. However insects could step in and save the day here again being packed full of vitamins and minerals with 100 g of the Angolan caterpillar Angolan providing over 100 % of your recommended daily allowance for iron, copper, zinc and vitamins B1 and  B2 (reviewed by DeFoliart, Crop Protection).

So seeing as insects have all these wonderful benefits and are eaten by the majority of other countries already, why don’t we see them being used more in the UK? One of the main problems is sourcing them. Ray and Cheti imported their locusts and mealworms all the way over from Denmark (the same suppliers which Noma, third best restaurant in the world, use). Currently insects are expensive to buy in the UK, one retailer offering 10 locusts for £11.54, and are seen (to some) as a luxury in Britain. However as the general population becomes accustomed to the idea of eating insects, this delicacy could become cheap and easy to produce, with insect farms being built in urban areas, requiring minimal space and attention. As non-sentient animals, they may also be seen as a protein source for those vegetarians who choose their lifestyle due to ethical reasons.
I imagine though that once the British public get over the idea that insects are too gross to eat, then they could be a good, cheap, tasty source of protein. However I’m not too sure I’m willing to regularly replace my Sunday roast beef with insect dumplings in the future.

For more information on our opinions on the ever changing public health issues, get in touch with us. Follow us @BrandingScience on Twitter or visit our LinkedIn company page.

Becky Geffen Graduate Research Executive
  • BSc (Hons) Natural Sciences from Newcastle University majoring in medicinal chemistry
  • MSc Pharmacology from Oxford University
  • Research experience in anticancer drug design and the mechanisms of antibiotic resistance


No comments: